Archive for the ‘Psychology’ Category

Surprising authors and the Conan Doyle effect

August 12, 2016

“You’ll Never Guess Who Wrote That: 78 Surprising Authors of Psychological Publications” by Scott O. Lilienfeld (Emory University) & Steven Jay Lynn (Binghamton University): Perspectives on Psychological Science Vol. 11, No. 4, pp. 419-41 (July 2016). The abstract:

One can find psychological authors in the most unexpected places. We present a capsule summary of scholarly publications of psychological interest authored or coauthored by 78 surprising individuals, most of whom are celebrities or relatives of celebrities, historical figures, or people who have otherwise achieved visibility in academic circles, politics, religion, art, and diverse realms of popular culture. Still other publications are authored by individuals who are far better known for their contributions to popular than to academic psychology. The publications, stretching across more than two centuries, encompass a wide swath of domains of psychological inquiry and highlight the intersection of psychology with fields that fall outside its traditional borders, including public health, economics, law, neurosurgery, and even magic. Many of these scholarly contributions have enriched psychology and its allied disciplines, such as psychiatry, in largely unappreciated ways, and they illustrate the penetration of psychological knowledge into multiple scientific disciplines and everyday life. At the same time, our author list demonstrates that remarkable intellectual accomplishments in one scientific domain, such as physics, do not necessarily translate into success in psychology and underscores the distinction between intelligence, on the one hand, and critical thinking and wisdom, on the other

A majot point of the study is that both popular writers and successful scientists in other fields are inclined to seriously underestimate the challenges of doing research in a number of subfields of linguistics — I mean, how hard could it be? — notably psycholinguistics, sociolinguistics, historical linguistics, phonetics, semantics, and syntactic variation — all of which can fairly be said to be hard  that is to say, difficult, science — a point made clearly in the full article.


Hiphop phrenology

July 2, 2016

In going through CDs for recent offers — specifically, in the Quirky / Eccentric music category — I came across a hiphop album “Phrenology” by the group Roots. The cover art:


This is a phrenological chart with a black man as model, with jokey or politically tinged drawings for the regions.

And the parental advisory reflects the lyrics of the songs, heavily laced with the full range of taboo vocabulary and slurs. The track “Pussy Galore” is particularly notable.


Making plans

July 2, 2016

An old Calvin and Hobbes cartoon in my comics feed on the 30th:

It’s all about achieving goals (in this case, to get to the other side of the lake) and  making plans to achieve those goals, involving subsidiary goals (in this case, to drain the lake) and plans to achieve those subsidiary goals (in this case, by bailing out the lake with a bucket).

Human beings can be remarkably clever at devising auxiliary goals to reach larger ends, sometimes in several layers; Calvin’s problems are not in the planning facility, but in the utter futility of the auxiliary plan he’s devised.

Some other animals show some ingenuity in subsidiary planning, at least in certain contexts and for certain kinds of goals; great apes are known for their cleverness. But some animals in some situations are just not prepared to do auxiliary planning, as anyone who’s dealt with dogs, even very smart ones, can attest.

Monday: attention, language stereotypes

June 20, 2016

Among today’s cartoons: a Calvin and Hobbes on the paradoxes of attention, and a One Big Happy on Italians behaving stereotypically, and stereotypes of the Italian language:





May 11, 2016

(About psychology rather than language.)

From the 4/25/16 issue of  Psychological Science, “What Predicts Children’s Fixed and Growth Intelligence Mind-Sets? Not Their Parents’ Views of Intelligence but Their Parents’ Views of Failure” by Kyla Haimovitz and Carol S. Dweck of Stanford’s psychology department. The first sentence of the abstract introduces the crucial piece of background: Dweck’s important work on intelligence mind-sets and how they affect the way people (children, in particular) are motivated to work at certain tasks, thus affecting their ability to master those tasks (see Dweck’s 2006 book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success). But, Haimovitz and Dweck ask, where do kids get their intelligence mind-sets?


A prevalence of left-handers

December 9, 2015

Max Vasilatos writes me to report thar she has “this notion that a disproportionate number of actors [she sees] on TV are left-handed, but that seems unlikely”, and she connects her impression to what I’ve called the frequency illusion:

The illusion in which a word, a name, or other thing that has recently come to one’s attention suddenly seems to appear with improbable frequency shortly afterward (Wikipedia link)

(and often for extended periods of time after that). Surely Max is right — about the source of her impression, not about the extent of left-handedness in tv actors.


Three morning names

February 3, 2015

I occasionally post about my “morning names” — names that I wake up with stuck in my head, for no reason I can fathom. Today’s morning name was Jensen Ackles, an actor I’ve already written about on this blog (on 8/21/13). But: on Saturday, the social psychologist Bibb Latané; on Sunday, the actor Pat Buttram (noted for cowboy and hayseed roles); and yesterday, the hayseed performer Judy Canova.

The last two will lead me to reflect on farm folk as comic characters, and the last to the 1937 movie Artists and Models, with its mixture of “high” and “low” characters.


Silliness from the APS

January 11, 2015

Just arrived in my mail, this silly announcement (from the Association for Psychological Science) of a birthday today:

For his birthday wish, all William James wants is for you to submit a poster for the 2015 APS Convention. Make his wish come true and submit before January 31.

At APS, you’ll also have a chance to meet the recipients of this year’s William James Fellow Award who will each deliver a special address at the APS Convention in May: Michael S. Gazzaniga, University of California, Santa Barbara; Susan Goldin-Meadow, University of Chicago; Joseph E. LeDoux, New York University; Timothy D. Wilson, University of Virginia